29 October 2010--Up at 6:00--my hosts are kind enough to provide an early breakfast, which is not at all standard. Drive
through the dark to Craignure, where I am first in the standby line. By the time the ferry arrives, there are eight or ten cars behind me.
We all get on without any trouble. I'm guessing CalMac intentionally underbooks, maybe to leave room for late-booking trucks, or just to be
sure that there's space for those who really need it. Or maybe trucks book routinely, then cancel when they don't need to go. Whatever...
I'm glad to be on.
The crossing is shorter than I remembered, a mere forty-five minutes, and soon enough we're passing the Stevenson lighthouse on Eilean Musdile on our way into Oban. From there, it's an easy three hours to the B&B in Edinburgh, via Crianlarich and Stirling. I check in and take a nap. The trip is winding down, and I'm getting lazy. Well, I have been since Win and Scott left.
I have a serviceable dinner at the Auld Hundred in Rose Street, and head up to the Bow Bar. The estimable Dr Willie Jackson arrives at 8:00pm. Willie is an academic with a doctorate in folderol or mayhem or some such, although he could easily have one in uisgeology as well. (That's the study of whisky--okay, I made the word up.) Indeed, we are acquainted through the whiskywhiskywhisky forum, through which I've met many nice people in Scotland and elsewhere. We are quickly into the pints and drams, and very shortly it occurs to me that we have tacitly entered into the game in which the person who buys the last round wins. Keeping up with Willie is a challenge. We are sitting at a table near the end of the bar, which gives us an interesting view of some of the patrons standing there. At one moment it seems quite clever to me to take a few surreptitious photos, and at the next it dawns on me that my judgment is well past its sell-by date. Willie has won the game. My departure is rather abrupt--I hope he understands.
It's about two miles to the B&B, and I probably ought to take a cab, but I always feel that the walk will do me good. Two miles I can do. However, walking down the long hill of Hanover Street, I do a considerable amount of switchbacking, to reduce the grade. (Any suggestion that the weaving might be involuntary is patently absurd.) This nonlinear routing extends the actual distance covered by a half a mile or more. Thus, just a few hundred yards from the B&B, I reach the end of my endurance. My left foot strikes an uneven seam on the sidewalk, and comes to a sudden stop. My upper body continues apace. I quickly find myself in an untenably diagonal posture, and recall the characters in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who learn to fly by throwing themselves at the ground and missing. I do not miss.
It's only reasonable in such a circumstance to take a moment to take stock of one's physical wellbeing before trying to get up. This I do, at the same time considering how best to reach a suitable accommodation with gravity. As I lie thus in perplexed contemplation, I am approached by a woman who asks if I'm all right, and helps me up. She and her husband just happened to catch my abortive attempt at flight as they were driving by. They bundle me into their car and take me the remaining distance to the B&B. I am embarrassed and humiliated, but grateful for good-hearted samaritans who stopped to help a drunken fool on a Friday night. I can't say with any certainty that I would do the same.
Well played, Willie! Let's do it again soon.